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All the Money in the World review – raucous crime thriller banishes ghost of Kevin Spacey

Ridley Scott’s drama about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III looked sunk after allegations were made against the actor, but Christopher Plummer excels as his last-minute replacement

‘The rich are different from you and me,” said F Scott Fitzgerald, to which Ernest Hemingway is famously alleged to have replied: “Yes, they have more money.” This film suggests they also have more fear of their own children – fear that they will parasitically suck away energy that should be devoted to building up riches and status; that they will fail to be worthy inheritors of it, or waste it, or cause it to be catastrophically mortgaged to their own pampered weakness. This fear is the driving force of Ridley Scott’s raucous pedal-to-the-metal thriller about the ageing and super-rich oil tycoon J Paul Getty, freely adapted by screenwriter David Scarpa from the 1995 page-turner Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J Paul Getty by veteran true-crime author John Pearson. It is directed by the 80-year-old Ridley Scott with gleeful energy and riotous attack. The old guy is always the most interesting character on screen, and that can hardly be an accident.

In 1973, cantankerous Getty refused to pay the kidnap ransom demanded after his 16-year-old grandson John Paul Getty III was snatched by Calabrian mobsters from the streets of Rome. And why? Because he didn’t want to set a precedent and reward crime? Because he suspected this wastrel boy had cooked up a scheme to scam him? Or because, in his wizened and ornery old apology for a heart, he just didn’t feel like parting with a single dime? Only when a severed ear arrives through the post does the old boy feel like getting out his chequebook.

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